All employers are required to carry Workers’ Compensation insurance in Arkansas. Workers’ compensation claims are handled by the Arkansas Workers’ Compensation Commission (AWCC). Typically the first step in the process is for the worker to inform their employer of the injury and to provide written notification. Your employer will then notify the AWCC and, if they are not self-insured, their insurer. Most Workers’ Compensation claims proceed through the system routinely without issue. However in some instances the claim is challenged or otherwise litigated. In situations like these, the timely presentation of evidence can make the difference between benefits being awarded and denied. Furthermore mistakes regarding evidence can bar it from being introduced at all.
Working with an experienced Workers’ Compensation attorney in Arkansas can decrease the likelihood that your claim will be denied due to a mistake or technical error. The Kieklak Law Office has fought for injured hard working Arkansans for more than 20 years.
Evidence must be presented at the initial hearing
It may be human nature to procrastinate, but when it comes to legal issues procrastination can have irreversible consequences. Arkansas Code § 11-9-705(c)(1) requires that all evidence be presented at the initial hearing regarding the claim. If the evidence is not presented, then it may be barred from being introduced at any time. In short, the judge or panel of commissioners will never hear your medical or other evidence that could prove your case. This can lead to benefits being denied in a case where they would have been awarded had the evidence been presented.
When can new evidence be introduced?
While the rule typically requires all evidence to be presented at the hearing, there are certain situations where it can be introduced at a later time in the proceedings. The exception to the general rule of evidence states that new evidence may be introduced but only if it is relevant, it is not merely cumulative, it is likely to change the result, and the party that introduced the evidence was diligent in their litigation of the case.
Consider a recent decision by the full Workers’ Compensation commission where the claimant attempted to introduce four new medical exhibits after the initial hearing to support his claim for additional medical care for his injured knee. The medical exhibits did not exist at the time of the initial hearing. The commission determined that the evidence was relevant, however one member of the commission dissented. Relevant evidence is evidence that is of consequence in a matter and it makes a fact more or less probable.
The full panel also found that the evidence was not cumulative. Cumulative evidence is evidence regarding information that has already been established by other documents or evidence. Documents that merely compile information that can be found elsewhere would also be considered cumulative. The panel also found that the evidence was likely to change the outcome of the case.
As far as whether claimant was diligent, the full panel was split. While the majority found that there was indeed a diligent handling of the claim and medical treatment, a lone dissenter did not. The dissenter took issue with the fact that claimant was determined to have reached maximum medical improvement in 2012. At the 2012 exam he was told he could return to full activity due to the improvement in his left knee. The claimant apparently did not seek further medical treatment until a 2014 visit where he received an injection to the knee. From this the commissioner concluded that the claimant had only been diligent in seeking initial treatment but he had not been diligent in seeking further medical treatment or in obtaining evidence. The dissenting panel member also used this same point to assert that the claimant has not established that this new treatment was relevant to the claim despite the fact that he was seeking treatment for the same injury.
This scenario shows how, even when working from the same analytical framework, members of the AWCC can interpret the same facts and circumstances quite differently. Therefore it is extremely important that your proof and evidence is presented in a clear and straightforward manner. This can reduces that likelihood that the evidence will be misinterpreted or otherwise used to deny your claim. Fayetteville AR Workers’ Compensation lawyer Ken Kieklak of the Law Practice of Ken Kieklak has represented hard working and dedicated Arkansans who have suffered a workplace injury for more than 20 years. To discuss your disability claim confidentially, call (479) 316-0438 or contact us online to arrange for a free initial consultation.